Video Games

Cliff Bleszinski Posts Defense of EA Microtransactions

Clifford Bleszinski, of former Epic Games fame, who is neither a giant red dog nor a creepy 1994 Martin Short movie nor even a game developer at this point, posted a passionate defense of EA on his personal blog yesterday. He virulently defends EA’s Satanic practice of hoovering up every last drop of money in your soul for its own bloated, studio-destroying, amoebic existence. And by that, I mean microtransactions. Upon reading the post, I discovered three things:

  1. Cliff Bleszinski is under their magnetic spell as the future of gaming.
  2. Cliff Bleszinski has morphed completely into a corporate defender, rather than a decent game developer.
  3. Cliff Bleszinski’s name is very hard to type over and over.

If you don’t know at this point, John Smith is defending primarily games like DEAD SPACE 3, EA’s latest bland entrance into the floundering DEAD SPACE franchise, which included microtransactions for resources used for weapon crafting. So basically, they’re a boring shortcut to grinding for widgets. How innovative! The future is here!

Fire Available With Optional DLC!
“Fire” DLC Available Soon!

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Free to Pay Games

Let’s take a look at his arguments, shall we?

Those companies that put these products out? They’re for profit businesses. They exist to produce, market, and ship great games ultimately for one purpose. First, for money, then, for acclaim.

He’s spends a lot of time comparing EA to Valve in an unfair and illogical light. Both companies have microtransactions, yet both handle them extremely differently. EA considers microtransactions to be an emerging part of its business platform to extend the profitability of their lackluster but expensive games. Valve considered these microtransactions as a way to continue to produce revenue for a game that is now free to play, and also allows its user base to create and *GASP* sell their own content. Name one player of an EA game that made $500K of real money from one of their games.

Valve is just respected more because it doesn’t dilute its own intellectual property with crappy, console-friendly sequels or eat up excellent game studios, only to force them into EA’s shitty development abattoir. Then we get MASS EFFECT 3. No one wins.

On the point of greed, Valve has proven by action is that their primary goal is to make amazing games first, which is why they’re one of the best developers out there. Look at their catalogue and tell me with a straight goddamn face they’re into shovelware for a quick buck. Another big difference is that Valve is also not a publicly traded company, so it has the freedom to make risky experiments, like a F2P FPS with an in-game economy.

Available for the price of your dignity.
Available for the price of your dignity.

How exactly has EA innovated or moved games forward? I’ve played a lot of EA games in my day. Every time I check one out, the thing that I leave with is: what the hell happened to this game series? I’m hard pressed to think of one game studio they’ve acquired that they’ve made better and more exciting. They’re like King Midas in reverse, everything they touch turns to shit.

Making money and running a business is not inherently evil. It creates jobs and growth and puts food on the table. This country was built on entrepreneurship.

And also slaves. Don’t forget slaves. Thank you for the civics lesson, Professor CliffyB. This is the Andrew Ryan Defense: “Is EA not entitled to the sweat of its own microtransactions?”

bioshock
“‘No’ says the man on Steam! It belongs to Gabe!”

When referring to the stupid GEARS OF WAR weapon skins:

And you know what? In spite of the uproar, people still bought plenty of them. (I’ve seen the numbers.)

Okay, what are those numbers? Show me the money and I’ll agree that XBox players, as well as Steam players, will spend money on stupid crap. Let’s go back to Valve, whom he accurately describes as having “better image control”. EA was named by Consumerist Magazine to be the Worst Company in America. Valve made some fun virtual hats and I throw money at them during every Steam Sale.

If you don’t like EA, don’t buy their games. If you don’t like their microtransactions, don’t spend money on them. It’s that simple.

This a fair point. Let’s go back to Valve and their microtransaction strategy. They announced the MANN CO Store at the same time the game was going F2P. They didn’t charge an entry fee to giving them more money. I, for one, have an inherent dislike of microtransactions for something I already paid for. It feels like begging, or at worst, passive extortion. The reason that I didn’t have that reaction to TF2 is that 1: I’d already been playing the game for 500+ hours at that point (I spend $25 total on the Orange Box), 2: the game was going free anyway and 3: you could get every item from the store as a random drop. It was completely voluntary and did nothing but add to the fun, living game experience.

"Behold the awful price of treason!"
“Behold the awful price of treason and/or fun!”

Valve’s sense of fair play when it comes to microtransaction is that they’re fun. TF2 hats are stupid and purely cosmetic, but the game has a gallows sense of humor about the fact people are murdering each other with rocket launches while wearing sombreros. You don’t get that sense of play with a grim, dull space shooter like DEAD SPACE 3. Night and day.

Every console game MUST have a steady stream of DLC because, otherwise, guess what? It becomes traded in, or it’s just rented. In the console space you need to do anything to make sure that that disc stays in the tray.

Ugh, the console argument. Maybe you shouldn’t make a $60 dollar game an average of 6 hours long plus tacked-on multiplayer that’s a ghost town after 3 months. Or… I can get something from Steam that costs $10 and I’ll put 100+ hours into it. Or maybe we should shorten our console life cycles, that way we’re not developing for hardware that’s old enough to shave at this point.

Remember, if everyone bought their games used there would be no more games.

Ha ha. What. Every time you buy a used game, an angel loses its development job! Who is he, Smokey the Bear?

 

Only YOU can stop GameStop!
“Only YOU can stop GameStop!”

 

People like to act like we should go back to “the good ol’ days” before microtransactions but they forget that arcades were the original change munchers. Those games were designed to make you lose so that you had to keep spending money on them.

So that was a good thing? So then why attempt to copy this model? Don’t mix my nostalgia for the glorious SMASH TV with this flaccid logical assumption. Arcades could get away with this garbage because there was no alternative for a very, very long time. Home consoles during the heydays of the arcade couldn’t match the cabinet’s graphical or gameplay power.

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Make Hats, Not War

The real issue here is not that microtransactions exist, but if we allow them to be the dominant new development model, there’s no place a monolith like EA won’t take it. It’s a slippery slope from optional game additions (like jester hats and koala bear buddies) to only releasing half a game, or requiring a purchase for in-game ammo that you need to proceed. Or the obnoxious trend of locking multiplayer on used games. We shouldn’t be defending this. We shouldn’t be supporting this nonsense. Cliff Bleszinski just wants us to knock it off on his development pal. I for one, have no such designs.

And If you’ll excuse me, I have my eye on a Vintage Tyrolean.

 

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Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte

Carl Wilhoyte is the Video Games Editor of ScreenInvasion.com: a class warrior poet who writes about all things video games. He's sure everything is not under control and is not going to be okay. For a good time, follow his angry rants and smart thoughts on Twitter: @carlwilhoyte.